Mickey Garagiola and Larry Matysik
When you say the name Larry Matysik to a wrestling fan in St Louis, you get the same warm feeling that St Louis Cardinal fans get when you mention former ST Louis Cardinal announcer Jack Buck. Admiration and great memories quickly come to mind.
Both men were the fans best friend when it came to providing them with the much desired information about what was transpiring in the sport that they were into.
Buck was the man to hear the play by play of Cardinal greats such as Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee and Bruce Sutter. Fans watched as Matysik called play by play in matches that saw “King Kong” Brody, Dick “the Bruiser, Lou Thesz, Gene Kiniski, Pat O’Connor, Harley Race, Buddy Rogers and many more in action.
St Louis promoter Sam Muchnick was wise enough to know that for wrestling to succeed in St Louis, a sports town that he would have to bring the same respectability that the Cardinals brought to the city.
Wrestling at the Chase
A main piece to the puzzle would be the Voice of Wrestling at the Chase. The television program which broadcast from 1959 to 1983 from the majestic Chase Hotel would be the face of wrestling in St Louis.
Larry interviewing David Von Erich after beating Harley Race
Matysik has been much more than a man calling the play by play of great matches in St Louis. At the young age of 16 in 1963, Muchnick hire Matysik and would be very supportive and helpful in the career that saw Matysik also man the publicist and office manager, as well as book the matches.
In 1984 he would begin working with Vince McMahon and then WWF (now WWE) till 1993.
Matysik has since gone on to write some of the must read books in the industry including
1) Wrestling at the Chase: The Inside Story of Sam Muchnick and the Legends of Professional Wrestling
Wrestling at the Chase is a fond, informative, amusing, and even poignant look at the who’s who of professional wrestling and legendary St. Louis promoter Sam Muchnick.
St. Louis was the capital, and Muchnick the ruler of professional wrestling, before Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment took over. What happened in St. Louis paved the way for today’s multi-billion-dollar sports entertainment industry. The centerpiece of this magical operation was “Wrestling at the Chase,” a television program which broadcast from 1959 to 1983 from the majestic Chase Hotel.
Larry Matysik was Muchnick’s protégé and longtime announcer for the television show. With an insider’s eye for detail and accuracy, he recalls funny and amazingly touching tales about the characters who created professional wrestling as we know it. Ric Flair, “King Kong” Brody, Dick “the Bruiser,” the Von Erichs, Lou Thesz, Gene Kiniski, Pat O’Connor, Johnny Valentine, Dick Murdoch, Harley Race, Buddy Rogers, Jack Brisco, and Andre the Giant are all prominently featured. So is Muchnick himself, the Damon Runyan of wrestling, a man who helped mould the bizarre business of circus and sport. The savage twists of the politics of wrestling are on display as well, particularly the changes that rocked the mat world during the early ’80s.
2) Drawing Heat the Hard Way
Thrilling but flawed, entertaining despite the swerves and double-crosses, captivating even when repugnant… professional wrestling has enjoyed the attention and loyalty of untold millions for nearly a century. How and why is precisely what Larry Matysik examines in his third book, Drawing Heat the Hard Way: How Wrestling Really Works.
Wrestlers have their own private language, and in the unique world of wrestling “drawing heat” is a very good thing: the successful generation of crowd reaction and fan excitement. The Hard Way? That’s both exactly what it sounds like and something no one in the industry plans for: a legitimate and unintentional wound suffered because something’s gone awry. In Drawing Heat the Hard Way, Matysik explains what it takes to win the hearts and minds of wrestling fans, and how, at times, mistakes, controversy and unexpected turns of events have damaged the reputation or forever changed the business he loves.
If anyone understands wrestling, the problem-child offspring of whatever “real” sport is, it’s Matysik. Drawing Heat the Hard Way takes on the way wrestling is booked or planned; analyzes the roles of wrestlers and announcers, and explores steroids as an industry and fan issue. It also considers wrestling’s power-brokers, from those who influence the business by reporting on it, like Dave Meltzer, to those who make the final decisions on what gets broadcast every week, like the omnipresent Vince McMahon, and even to those who influence the sport with their pocketbooks — the fans themselves.
At times humorous, occasionally heartbreaking, always insightful, Drawing Heat the Hard Way is ultimately an objective take on what it means to be a wrestling fan, from someone who knows the business inside and out.
3) Brody: The Triumph and Tragedy of Wrestling’s Rebel
The most unpredictable and charismatic grappler of all time? The brute that made brawling an art before the term “hardcore” was coined? The confrontational businessman who fought for every penny he felt he deserved?
“Bruiser” Brody had no peers when it came to blood and guts, controversy and independence. Most wrestling promoters portrayed their top talent as exactly that kind of free-spirited, take-no-guff personality. They didn’t mean it, though — which explains why so few would admit to respecting Brody even as they featured him time and again.
So why did they give him work? Simple. “Bruiser” Brody delivered the goods in the ring and at the box office.
In the 1970s and early 80s, Brody was one of the few performers, along with Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, to be recognized as a national star. With his fiery personality, Brody also conquered the international market.
Nearly two decades after his murder in Puerto Rico, Brody: The Triumph and Tragedy of Wrestling’s Rebel delivers a complete portrait of Brody’s remarkable life. Co-authors Barbara Goodish, Brody’s widow, and Larry Matysik, a close friend, offer a first-time opportunity to truly understand one of the sport’s most complex and controversial human beings. Goodish’s account of her husband’s horrific murder and its aftermath is both heartbreaking and compelling, while Matysik’s insider knowledge of the business puts Brody’s place in wrestling history into perspective. With a foreword by WWE announcer Jim Ross, Brody offers readers the unvarnished truth about one of the greatest wrestling legends of all time.
4) An electronic book- From the Golden Era
This unique digital publication offers a complete record of every twist and turn, of every performer, of all the battles from television’s legendary Wrestling at the Chase, and every card presented at both the historic Kiel Auditorium and The Arena (Checkerdome) during the glory era of the St. Louis promotion.
Wrestling at the Chase announcer and St. Louis insider Larry Matysik adds background about the personalities, business, secrets, and politics to make this electronic book a revealing, in-depth account of three decades of wrestling’s golden era. Featuring everything from attendance figures, to booking strategies, to insights and NWA championship bouts, From the Golden Era: The St. Louis Wrestling Record Book is the once-in-a-lifetime document that every serious wrestling observer must have.
Matysik has also been instrumental in keeping the history of one of the highest rated wrestling television programs Wrestling at the Chase alive with Classic St Louis Wrestling, hosted by Matysik himself. In 2007. Matysik headed a team to bring to St Louis the St Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame.
He was joined in this effort by promoter Herb Simmons, webmaster Mitch Martsey, sports journalist Keith Schildroth, and longtime fan Nick Ridenour. The Hall of Fame was created to honor the role St. Louis played in helping to establish professional wrestling in North America. Today the hall can be seen at the historic South Broadway Athletic club.
In 2011 fans in St Louis will once again be able to hear the Voice himself call wrestling matches when he returns to TV on Sunday February 6, 2011 at 11:30 am and then rebroadcast on Sunday evening at 10:30pm on Charter Cable channel 8. The matches will be taped in East Carondelet Community Center on Saturday January 22nd.
Photo Credit Mike Van Hoogstraat
We were thrilled and excited when Matysik agreed to accept the 2009 MWR Lifetime Achievement Award. Earlier this month at MMWA-SICW, MWR’S Dubray Tallman had the honor to present the plaque to a true gentleman and ambassador of pro wrestling, Larry Matysik
Once again, thank you so much for your positive contribution to pro wrestling Larry Matysik.
Please join us at MWR on January 1st when we will announce the recipient for the 2010 MWR Lifetime Achievement Award.